Reign 3, Utah 2, OT.

It’s beginning to sound like a melodic broken record, but the Reign pulled out a close win on the road Saturday night.

Jeff Corey’s goal at 1:34 of overtime lifted the Reign to victory in a physically charged game in Utah. Back-to-back wins over the Grizzlies have given the Reign an 8-11-0-1 record, matching Bakersfield in the Pacific Division standings with 17 points. Because the Condors have a game in hand, the Reign can technically say they’re out of last place for the first time since Nov. 13.

Corey’s goal was his team-leading eighth of the season. He took a long pass from David Walker and fired it past Andrew Engelage for his second game-winning goal of the season. Walker’s assist was his second of the game and his team-leading 11th on the year.

Aaron Lewadniuk’s sixth goal of the season, during a first-period power play, opened the scoring midway through the first period. Dusty Collins made it 2-0 in the middle period with his second goal this season.

Utah answered with goals from Matt Clarke and Nick Tuzzolino, the latter coming with 5:00 left in the third period.

Starting his 18th consecutive game, Kellen Briggs made 37 saves on a night that saw Utah outshoot the Reign 39-24. The teams combined for nearly as many penalty minutes (60) as shots (63), including a second-period fight between Michael Pelech and Utah’s Marcus Carroll. Ten of the game’s 24 penalties were for roughing, including a pair that were charged to former Reign defenseman Brian Kilburg.

The Reign are unbeaten in five road games in November and December, and all five wins have been by a single goal. Their home record during that span is 1-7, with only a shootout win against the Las Vegas Wranglers in the win column.

The lineup looked the same for the third straight night but that could change against the Wranglers on Wednesday, especially if James McEwan (among others) is cleared to play and gets the nod to make his season debut from coach Karl Taylor.

Reign 4, Utah 3.

There’s no place like home, but there’s been no place better for the Reign than the road.

A 4-3 win over the Utah Grizzlies on Friday at the E-Center was the Reign’s fourth straight win away from The Bank. Goals by Aaron Lewadniuk, Chaz Johnson, Michael Pelech (short-handed) and Lane Caffaro ended the Reign’s losing skid at 2, and toppled the best team in the Western Conference.

The Reign played with the same lineup as they did in Wednesday’s 5-4 loss to the Bakersfield Condors. Defenseman Pat Bowen played his second straight game in favor of Eric Doyle and Matt Delahey; Chad Starling (lower-body injury) is still on IR. Forwards Kyle Kraemer (knee) and Jon Francisco (lower-body) remained out, and center Tim Kraus was scratched again.

Kellen Briggs made his 17th straight start and stopped 31 of 34.

Pelech also had an assist, as did Luke Beaverson, Brett O’Malley and Jordan Hill.

The two teams meet again at 6 p.m. tonight. More details in tomorrow’s editions of the Sun and Daily Bulletin.

Utah 7, Reign 3.

So much for that momentum from Saturday’s win at The Bank.

Both teams were playing their third game in three nights, but only one showed it, as Utah scored five power-play goals to walk away with the 7-3 win. Shawn Collymore had two goals for the Reign, C.J. Stretch had a goal and an assist, and Kellen Briggs (15 saves on 21 shots) was pulled from a start for just the second time this season.

More details in tomorrow’s editions of the Sun and Daily Bulletin (but if you’re looking for something uplifting, better turn to the comics page).

ECHL playoff update.

The Idaho Steelheads eliminated the Utah Grizzlies with a 4-1 win on the road Friday, sweeping the series four games to none to move on to the National Conference finals.

They will face either the Bakersfield Condors or the Stockton Thunder, who pushed their Central Valley rivals to the brink with a 6-2 win Friday night in Stockton. The Thunder lead the best-of-seven series three games to one, with Game 5 set for 7:30 p.m. Saturday night.

AHL, ECHL playoff updates.

From the Calder Cup playoffs (American Hockey League):

Bud Holloway scored the second of three goals for the Manchester Monarchs in a 3-1 win over the Portland Pirates on Saturday night. Holloway scored the game-winner a night earlier, and the Monarchs lead 2-0 in the best-of-seven series. Former Reign forward Dwight King did not factor into the scoring in either game, and former Reign goalie Jeff Zatkoff has served as the backup in both.

Jon Rheault was in the starting lineup, but was kept off the scoresheet in a 4-1 loss by the Abbotsford Heat to the Rochester Americans on Saturday. Their series is tied at 1 game apiece.

Dusty Collins and the Manitoba Moose absorbed an 8-2 thumping at the hands of the Hamilton Bulldogs on Saturday. Collins did not figure into the scoring and the Moose head home to Winnipeg trailing 2-0 in the series.

From the Kelly Cup playoffs (ECHL):

Brian Kilburg and the Utah Grizzlies are down two games to none against the Idaho Steelheads after a 4-3 loss in Boise on Saturday. The former Reign defenseman got the starting nod but didn’t score.

Oren Eizenmann’s second goal of the game at 9:01 of overtime lifted the Stockton Thunder to a 4-3 win over the Bakersfield Condors on Saturday. The Thunder are leading 2-0 with the series heading back to Stockton on Tuesday. Bakersfield’s two ex-NHL forwards, MacGregor Sharp and Kyle Calder, have a combined zero goals and zero assists in the two games.

A note on the Kelly Cup playoffs.

I probably won’t find the time or desire to provide an update after each night of ECHL playoff action, but felt compelled to highlight tonight’s box score from the Las Vegas Wranglers’ 6-4 win over the Utah Grizzlies.

Before a sitting-room only crowd of 1,882 at Orleans Arena, the Wranglers not only enjoyed eight power plays to the Grizzlies’ four, but were awarded two penalty shots (missing both). Utah didn’t get any free shots. If you watched the Reign’s three-game series in Las Vegas last weekend and felt there was a home-team bias of some sort (guessing that a few of you might fall into that category), this might help you sleep a little easier tonight.

Note also that Andy Thiessen, who refereed Thursday’s Reign-Wranglers game, as well as the Reign’s season-ending loss to Stockton in the 2009 playoffs, was the referee in Las Vegas tonight. Not an accusation of bias, just an observation.

Las Vegas 2, Reign 1.

The Reign’s second season of existence will not end in the playoffs.

Michael Pelech scored the lone goal and Curtis Darling stopped 32 of 34 shots, but the Reign were out of it even before the final horn sounded. That’s because the Victoria Salmon Kings – whom the Reign needed to lose tonight and tomorrow – demolished the Utah Grizzlies, 9-2.

Continue reading

Update from Friday’s morning skate.

Today’s morning skate at the Orleans Arena was optional for the Reign, and 11 players took to the ice: Greg Hogeboom, Tim Kraus, Chad Starling, Andrew Martens, Mike Egener, Luis Tremblay, Dan Knapp, Peter Lenes, C.J. Stretch, Jordan Nolan, and Mike Zacharias.

Zacharias was the only goalie on the ice, which in most cases (barring injuries or other unforeseen circumstances) means that he’ll be the backup in the game. Expect Curtis Darling – who turned in a good performance in a losing effort Thursday – to get his second straight start.

I caught up with Nolan and Karl Taylor to discuss Nolan’s pro debut; more on that in tomorrow’s editions of the Sun and Daily Bulletin.

Here are the elimination scenarios for tonight:

- If the Reign lose in regulation, or Victoria beats Utah (7 p.m. Pacific start time in British Columbia), the Reign are eliminated from playoff contention.
- If the Reign lose in overtime or a shootout, they need Victoria to lose in regulation in order to avoid elimination.
- If the Reign win (either in regulation or in overtime/shootout), they need Victoria to lose (either in regulation or overtime/shootout) to avoid elimination.

Taking all of tonight’s nine potential scenarios into account, the Reign are eliminated in six of them. They need help.

Tonight and tomorrow, get used to the phrase “Go Grizzlies!”

Reign 4, Alaska 3, shootout.

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: The Reign won in a shootout Saturday, as Mike Zacharias came on in relief of Curtis Darling to get the win and get the Reign a much-needed two points.

It’s a formula that the Reign have employed three times in the last five games and it worked again to clinch victory against the Alaska Aces. Jon Rheault scored all three Reign goals in regulation, and Michael Pelech and Chad Starling scored in the shootout.

Darling stopped 25 of 28 shots over 65 minutes before giving way to Zacharias, who stopped four of the five shooters in the shootout. Mike Egener had two assists as the Reign converted both of their power-play opportunities.

The Reign took four of a possible six points in the Alaska series, turning the standings into a real rat race: seven teams are separated by seven points in the battle for six playoff spots. With the win, the Reign moved a point ahead of the Utah Grizzlies into the seventh and final playoff position.

The Reign are now 9-1-0-2 in their past 12 games.

Alaska 2, Reign 0.

The streak is over.

By losing 2-0 to the Alaska Aces on Friday night, the Reign failed to gain a point in the standings for the first time since Feb. 14, a span of 10 games. They also failed to take advantage of the Utah Grizzlies’ 5-2 victory over the Stockton Thunder, which would have allowed the Reign out of the Pacific Division cellar with a victory.

Instead, the Reign (26-26-3-6) are a point back of Stockton (27-24-2-6) and tied with Utah (27-25-2-5) at 61 points in the standings. By virtue of the Grizzlies’ better winning percentage (.517 to .500), they would get the National Conference’s final playoff berth if the season ended today.

Curtis Darling stopped 27 of 28 shots, allowing only a power-play goal to Eric Boguniecki at 13:22 of the third period. Darling had been pulled for an extra attacker when Alaska was credited with a goal with 1:47 left in the third period, when Reign defenseman Mike Egener hit Brock McBride as McBride attempted to score into the empty net.

Aces goaltender Scott Reid foiled all 24 shots by the Reign, who will attempt to pick up two points when the teams meet again at 8:15 p.m. Saturday.